Several Chicago-area senior housing firms are taking adaptive reuse measures to preserve existing, sometimes historic, buildings and, thus, improve the neighborhood while offering new options for senior living.

In Chicago’s Norwood Park neighborhood, Kinzie Builders is repurposing a former convent to create a 72-unit senior living development called Amazing Grace. The facility, slated to be completed in the spring, will include both assisted living and memory care units as well as a suite of amenities inspired by upscale multifamily properties, including an onsite theater room, game room with simulated bowling, bistro serving coffee and snacks, art studio, beauty salon, fitness center, restored chapel for daily worship and a large multi-use event space with a stage, noted John Lifka, principal and general manager at Kinzie Builders.

“As an adaptive reuse project, Amazing Grace Senior Living was particularly gratifying, because we were able to transform the building for a purpose-driven use that is much needed in the community,” Lifka told the McKnight’s Business Daily. “The original owners, the Sisters of the Resurrection, were thrilled we were able to keep one of the most treasured features of the building, the chapel, with very limited remodeling required.”

Elsewhere, the Chicago-based Evergreen Real Estate Group has undertaken another adaptive reuse project on Chicago’s North Side with the development of the 193-unit Ravenswood Senior Living, slated to open in the spring or summer. The $81 million project will convert the former Ravenswood Hospital — which was built in 1974 and has been vacant since 2002 — into much needed affordable seniors housing.

“We are proud to say this is one of the first developments in the country to offer both independent living and supportive living for low-income seniors in a single location, allowing residents to age in place as their needs and lives change,” said David Block, director of development for Evergreen Real Estate Group. “This continuum-of-care approach, common in market-rate senior housing but less common among affordable properties, makes it possible for residents to transition into a new, yet familiar, home if and when they require assistance with daily tasks like bathing, dressing and making meals.” 

Block added that although the former hospital is not an official historic structure, it is an important local landmark to the community; thus, Evergreen plans to revitalize and maintain much of the original structure. The facade of the former hospital will be cleaned and tuckpointed, and the brutalist facades will be enhanced with a large number of new windows. 

Structural changes will include the addition of an elevator and staircase at the entrance of the independent living community to improve accessibility for residents and guests. Elevators inside the building will be modernized, and the entire building will be revamped to be converted to apartments, which will include new walls, HVAC and new kitchens and bathrooms.

Four years ago, Evergreen also completed the adaptive reuse of Aurora St. Charles Senior Living, a 60-unit independent living facility just east of downtown Aurora, IL, that provides affordable housing for low-income seniors. It is located in the former St. Charles Hospital, a historic Art Deco building that was designed by Wybe J. Van der Meer and completed in 1932. 

The building had been vacant since 2010, the year it was named to the National Register of Historic Places. The $24 million redevelopment project created a mix of studio, one- and two-bedroom floor plans, and the community’s modern interiors showcase a number of the Art Deco structure’s original design features, including 9-foot ceilings throughout, oversized windows in each residence, and terrazzo and stone floors in common areas. 
“Our Aurora St. Charles project is a great example of a hospital-to-senior housing conversion in which we repurposed a long-vacant structure that was a neighborhood landmark and transformed it into much-needed affordable senior housing,” Block told the McKnight’s Business Daily. “These types of projects require pulling together complex sources of financing as well as collaborating with a number of public and private partners, and we believe it can serve as a creative model for future senior housing development.”